Louis W. Sullivan

Founder and Chair, The Sullivan Alliance

ivanLouis W. Sullivan, M.D., former Secretary of Health and Human Services (1989-1993), is founder and chair of The Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, and chair of the board of the National Health Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, whose goal is to improve the health of Americans by enhancing health literacy and advancing healthy behaviors.  From 2002-2009, he chaired the President’s Commission on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


In 2002, Dr. Sullivan retired as President of Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) after more than two decades of service.  He became the founding dean and director of the Medical Education Program at Morehouse College in 1975. The program became the School of Medicine at Morehouse College in 1978, admitting its first 24 students to a two-year program in the basic medical sciences. In 1981, the school received provisional accreditation of its four year curriculum leading to the M.D. degree, became independent from Morehouse College and was re-named Morehouse School of Medicine, with Dr. Sullivan as dean and president. MSM was fully accredited as a four-year medical school in April 1985 and awarded its first 16 M.D. degrees in May of that year. Its graduates include U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, MD, and Meharry Medical College, President Wayne Riley, MD. With Marybeth Gasman, Dr. Sullivan is the co-author of The Morehouse Mystique: Becoming a Doctor at the Nation’s Newest African American Medical School, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 2012.


Dr. Sullivan left MSM in 1989 to accept an appointment by President George H.W. Bush to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. In this cabinet position, Dr. Sullivan managed the federal agency responsible for the major health, welfare, food and drug safety, medical research and income security programs serving the American people.  His efforts to improve the health and health behavior of Americans included (1) leading the effort to increase the NIH budget from $8.0 billion in 1989 to $13.1 billion in 1993. (2) the introduction of a new and improved FDA food label; (3) the release of Healthy People 2000, a guide for improved health promotion/disease prevention activities; (4) education of the public about the health dangers from tobacco use; (5) the successful efforts to prevent the introduction of “Uptown,” a non-filtered, mentholated cigarette; (6) inauguration of a $100 million minority male health and injury prevention initiative; and (7) implementation of greater gender and ethnic diversity in senior positions of HHS, including the appointment of the first female director of the National Institutes of Health, the first female (and first Hispanic) Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, the first African American Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and the first African American Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration. In January 1993, he returned to Morehouse School of Medicine, and resumed the office of president.


A native of Atlanta, Dr. Sullivan graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse College in 1954, and earned his medical degree, cum laude, from Boston University School of Medicine in 1958. His postgraduate training included internship and residency in internal medicine at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center (1958-60), a clinical fellowship in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital (1960-61), and a research fellowship in hematology at the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory of Harvard Medical School, Boston City Hospital (1961-63). He is certified in internal medicine and hematology, holds a mastership from the American College of Physicians and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha academic honor societies.  Dr. Sullivan was instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School from 1963-64, and assistant professor of medicine at Seton Hall College of Medicine from 1964-66. In 1966, he became co-director of hematology at Boston University Medical Center and, a year later, founded the Boston University Hematology Service at Boston City Hospital. Dr. Sullivan remained at Boston University until 1975, holding positions as assistant professor of medicine, associate professor of medicine, and professor of medicine.


Dr. Sullivan is the founding president of the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools (AMHPS). He is a former member of the Joint Committee on Health Policy of the Association of American Universities and the National Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities.  In 1985, Dr. Sullivan was one of the founders of Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB).  From 1994-2007, he served as chairman of the organization, which raised scholarship funds in the United States and South Africa for more than 10,000 black health professions students, who are now physicians, nurses, dentists and other health professionals in South Africa.


Dr. Sullivan is the recipient of more than 60 honorary degrees, including an honorary doctor of medicine degree from the University of Pretoria in South Africa.  He is married to E. Ginger Sullivan, an attorney, and they have three grown children: Paul, a radiologist; Shanta, an actress; and Halsted, a Harvard Law Graduate and writer/producer for the television comedy, “The Office”. They have two grandchildren, Paul Jr. and Brent Sullivan.